Conversations with ci - Rohani De Beger
Rohani De Beger, Associate Director of Sales, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore in conversation with Simone Seiler, General Manager of FCM Meetings and Events.
This is the second in a series of talks with some of the most influential companies and individuals in the MICE industry - because we believe in the power of community and its ability to support us and actually help us thrive more than any other thing.
We’ve partnered with Marina bay on a number of occasions but most recently your sponsorship of the ‘CMO2020 marketing with purpose’ at The Grounds of Alexandria. This was the first physical event we had hosted in several months and we addressed some big challenges our valued clients were facing. With the help of Micheal McQueen we got down to the nitty-gritty of principles over profit, cultivating culture, and how we can stay flexible as a brand.
Welcome, Rohani De Beger, Associate Director of Sales, Marina Bay Sands.
So Rohani, what were your challenges in 2020?
Think about how things evolved as the pandemic really set in and how you responded to those developments.
Rohani De Beger
2020 has certainly been an interesting year. When the global and domestic business climate took a turn for the worse in March, that presented a whole new set of challenges for everyone.
As part of the Global Sales team, my key value proposition is staying connected with the property and our clients, bridging the gap between the two. When COVID-19 hit, property sales meetings were canceled and the teams could not travel into Australia for the annual VIP-hosted events. Tradeshows were off and domestic travel postponed.
Yet the need to connect had never felt more paramount.
As an organisation, we had to adapt quickly. Our other regional offices in the USA, Japan, South Korea, China, India & the UK were in the same predicament. In the meantime, our 50 strong sales team in Singapore started working from home when Marina Bay Sands closed from April to June due to Singapore’s Circuit Breaker, which refers to the mandatory closure of non-essential services.
I remember using Zoom for the first time, then Cisco WebEx, then Microsoft Teams – navigating a digital world of internal sales meetings, then client updates, then larger scale virtual presentations. The management is ahead of the curve in providing organisational updates and providing guidance on the next steps – and I never felt isolated and helpless. This is something that I am thankful for. The digital journey has been a wonderful learning experience, and I must say that I’m quite at ease with technology now.
Whatever we do, I believe we should aim to always do everything to the best of our ability. It is through these challenges that force us to equip ourselves with new skills & tools. From adversity comes opportunity.
I completely agree. When communication is so crucial - for individuals, workgroups, entire organisations, the pandemic really did compel us to adapt, and quickly. I’m well aware that businesses had to change a lot. We did ‘pivot’ as they say.
How have you changed?
What changes have endured? How are you doing things differently? What are the good, the bad, and the ugly things about the fallout from COVID-19?
Rohani De Beger
The good – I’ve learned how to connect with my fellow colleagues, clients, and even my family in a virtual environment. It is heartening to see how our MICE industry, both suppliers and clients, have really come together as a community to support each other’s initiatives, success stories, and challenges.
Back in early September, I had the opportunity to co-moderate a high-level discussion panel with my colleague in Singapore, connected virtually to the live in-person audiences present at Marina Bay Sands’ Hybrid Broadcast Studio. Aptly themed Meetings Moving Forward, we engaged in a four-way conversation with my co-host, our virtual guest, a live panelist in Singapore as well as association planners joining either virtually or in-person. It was a whole new experience for me, and I was glad to be able to reconnect with my industry peers despite the geographical challenges.
The bad – the sense of isolation in the beginning when we were all finding our way and the apprehension when Marina Bay Sands had to close its doors on 7 April 2020 for over 2 months.
The ugly – without a doubt homeschooling our 9-year-old son for 2 months during the Sydney lockdown. Multi-tasking, time management, and patience took on a whole new dimension!
Absolutely, this experience has taught all of us a great lesson around resilience, among our children, our colleagues, our communities, and most importantly within our selves. Personally, I've been reinvigorated with a deeper understanding of what we are all capable of in times of significant change and uncertainty. The key is to make sure we all take these lessons and ingrain them into our infinite journeys.
What is your outlook? What do you think the future holds and how are you preparing for it? Which trends do you see lasting and which ones won’t?
Rohani De Beger
Often to my detriment, I am an eternal optimist. I believe if we foresee a positive future, then it is only natural to ensure that we work to make it happen.
When talking to meeting planners including partners in Law Firms, consultants with Direct Selling companies, I hear the desire to return to travel and particularly being able to physically attend an event again. In fact, a whole cross-section of industry event planners that have surveyed their internal staff is hearing the same message.
Singapore has taken a very systematic approach to restart the MICE industry. Marina Bay Sands successfully hosted three pilot events since October, demonstrating our ability to implement Safe Management Measures as required by the Singapore Government, to ensure the health and safety of all the delegates in attendance.
The state-of-the-art Hybrid Broadcast Studio also has an important impact for Marina Bay Sands’ MICE business. Since October when we were allowed to accept commercial bookings for the Hybrid Broadcast Studio, we have hosted numerous hybrid events and continue to see a strong booking pipeline for the studio.
The company has always taken a long-term view of the industry and is investing to upgrade our infrastructure and upskill our team. I believe that having the right platform, tools, and talents is key to driving the next chapter of growth for the industry.
I too am the eternal optimist Rohani, I believe it is a great way to see the world! Many businesses, including our own, are working hard and making tough decisions to do exactly that - planning out the long term runway and getting ready to take the wheels off the ground again
So, last question: What are your top tips for hybrid/virtual / COVID safe events and meetings?
Rohani De Beger
- Start with a theme that resonates with your target audience.
- Build speakers, panelists, and content that tie to the theme.
- Have an engaging moderator who can bring two distinctly different groups of audiences (in-person and virtual) together.
- Use high-quality AV for filming as well as a proper hybrid broadcast studio (if you are able) to ensure the quality of the broadcast.
- Keep your event short.
- Engage the audience with polling, the opportunity to ask questions before, during, and after the event.
- Consider incorporating a CSR element in the event.
- Have a strong close to tie the entire discussion/event back to the theme.
- Practice, practice, practice!
Thank you, Rohani. The CSR program consideration resonates greatly with cievents, as we continue to support SolarBuddy during these times. It is a constant reminder that because COVID-19 has put a general hold on our essential activities, it does not mean that people less fortunate than us have stopped suffering. cievents prides itself as a company that stands for something is something - CSR programs allow us to connect our customers with this purpose.